Arts, Coronavirus, Features

College of Fine Arts students find limited resources as BU moves online

Following the announcement from President Robert Brown, Boston University classes have moved online since the conclusion of spring break. While other schools within the BU community now host lectures via video-conferencing platforms like Zoom, the College of Fine Arts and its three subdivisions, the School of Music, Theatre and Visual Arts, are re-examining ways to continue providing instruction to students.

Boston University’s College of Fine Arts has had to be flexible in transitioning to online courses as many classes require art supplies, instruments or in-person collaboration. ERIN BILLINGS/ DFP STAFF

Beginning Monday, students will not have swipe access to the College of Fine Arts building, and faculty will be working from home, according to an email sent to CFA students from Harvey Young, the dean of CFA. He also instructed students to vacate the building by then with their materials and instruments, although they can leave their instruments in their lockers and that the CFA offices will still be open to help students adjust to online studying.

McCaela Donovan, assistant director of the School of Theatre, said she believes student artists are better prepared to adapt to remote learning than students in other colleges.

“If anything, artists are the most flexible, the most improvisational, the most ready to go with the flow in situations like this,” Donovan said. “Situations that require an immense amount of resilience and change and thinking on your feet.”

Seniors graduating this semester are experiencing challenges of their own, Donovan said, as they are physically removed from their final projects. By providing virtual presentations and remote research and writing exercises, she said CFA is reducing student worries for the weeks ahead.

“I think CFA has been really responsive and sensitive to the students’ needs,” Donovan said. “I’ve been really impressed with the students’ generosity and willingness to dive into this process.”

This transition includes conducting table reads over Zoom, online design and production meetings and a script analysis, Donovan said. By bypassing actual in-person performances, she said CFA is allowing students to still interact with course material and each other in a similar way.

“In terms of the studio work, it requires us to be very physical, it requires students to work together on teamwork, and so that is a huge adjustment when it comes to the learning,” Donovan said. “On the one hand, we’re extremely prepared, and it’s been going really well so far, and on the other hand, it’s just not the nature of what our degree is and that is really challenging.”

Alessandro Lopresti, a freshman in CFA, said the School of Visual Arts is having less trouble working from home than students in other CFA schools. While he continues to work on his art from home, Lopresti said he is feeling the loss of the structure provided by art school.

“It’s a lot harder to focus, it’s a lot harder to get motivated when you’re in isolation,” Lopresti said. “It’d be way more collaborative [on campus], we’d all be painting at the same time and giving each other feedback … so it’s just strange to have to be doing my stuff on my own now.”

Lopresti said he worries how the school will handle students’ personal belongings that were left in CFA, where there are spaces for students to keep their art supplies and instruments.

“I just don’t know how are they going to be able to get them back,” Lopresti said. “When are we going to be able to get those? Are we going to be able to get them in September? Are they going to stay there?”

Students generally need CFA’s resources and facilities in order to complete recitals and other degree requirements. However, these performances and resources, such as the practice rooms, are no longer available due to the campuswide shutdown.

CFA faculty are currently trying to find ways to make up the chamber music credits, as well as provide alternatives for the cancelled performances.

Junyi Nie, a second-year master’s student in piano performance, said she is now struggling to complete her graduation requirements. While other instrumentalists and vocalists can bring their instruments home, Nie said she does not have access to a quality piano in her apartment in Boston.

“Right now, all the events have been canceled, [which] means my graduation recital also has to be canceled,” Nie said. “The practice room is closed right now, so we cannot access a piano to record.”

Nie said she is not only concerned with completing her degree before her doctoral program, but also with her inability to end her time at BU with a sense of closure. Nie said she did not have the opportunity to say goodbye to CFA, her professors, her friends and her students.

“[Not] sitting in the classroom to teach a class or teach a lesson or take a lesson, that makes me a little bit sad,” Nie said. “I hope the school can go back to normal soon.”

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